If you’re a tea drinker, you’ve no doubt sampled a Darjeeling tea. Darjeeling is one of the most popular teas in the world, and it is grown only in India. Darjeeling has been around for many years, but even today, it is a best seller.
Darjeeling tea is produced only in the Darjeeling region of India. The Darjeeling region is an area of high altitude: 4,000-10,000 feet above sea level. In this part of India there is a mist in the air almost constantly. This mist, combined with the high altitude ensures that the tea trees are always cool and moist. This moisture, combined with the soil’s excellent drainage produce tea leaves that have a very distinct flavor. It is often described as a muscadine flavor, leading Darjeeling to be known as the “champagne” of teas. Darjeeling is a lighter tea than many black teas, which is why the English consider it to be one of the best afternoon teas.
The tea from the Darjeeling region of India is so popular that it has even made the area popular with tourists. Each year, thousands of people ride the Darjeeling Himalayan Railway up into these mountains to see the beautiful tea gardens.
When you taste a good Darjeeling, you’ll taste definite fruity notes, along with nut and florals blending beautifully with that muscatel flavoring that comes only from this part of the world. And, only Darjeeling has that particular astringency. It’s one of the things that make the flavor of Darjeeling so unique. And, as a special treat, a really good Darjeeling offers an exquisite bouquet, as well, often with the smell of a fine wine. But, finding a really good Darjeeling can be difficult.
Darjeeling is one of the most popular tea blends, and the demand often exceeds the supply. For this reason, the Darjeeling you purchase from many tea purveyors is only part Darjeeling, having been mixed with other types of black tea, but labeled Darjeeling. If you read the label closely, you’ll see the true mix; usually about 50%.
The rest is filler – mostly dust from poor grade Darjeeling or other black teas. In fact, it is estimated that each year, about ten thousand pounds of Darjeeling tea is grown, but over forty thousand pounds of tea is sold each year as Darjeeling!
Tending a quality tea garden is a year round job. The first work of the year begins in March, when the tea plants are pruned one last time before the first pluckings begin. Then, in April or May, the tea begins being harvested. Typically, tea made from the first plucking of the year will be the best for the entire growing season. This is because the tea leaves are the most tender during the spring.
Once the first harvest is plucked, the tea is processed. The black tea leaves will be fully fermented and processed according to grade.
During the rest of the year, the tea garden must be tended to keep it at its best. The plants must be weeded all throughout the summer along with harvesting additional crops of tea. Tea plants do most of their growing during the autumn, so the plants must be fertilized during this time.
Around October, the tea plants will be pruned in preparation for the winter. Then throughout the winter, the tea gardener must pay special attention to any tea plants under four years of age, ensuring that they are protected from the cold.
Darjeeling tea is easy to find. Exceptional Darjeeling is a rare treat. If you’ve never had really high quality Darjeeling tea froma quality supplier, you’re missing out on one of the world’s greatest tea experiences. Don’t skimp when it comes to Darjeeling.